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UMass hockey cruises past Quinnipiac 6-3 to sweep series

(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

Two games, two wins.

The Massachusetts hockey team defeated Quinnipiac 6-3 Saturday night, 24 hours after beating the Bobcats 2-1 in Hamden, marking UMass’ first series sweep of the season and first since the 2015-16 season when it swept Connecticut Nov. 6-7.

Redshirt senior Niko Rufo paced the Minutemen with a hat trick and goalie Ryan Wischow followed up a great performance Friday with another sound game in goal for UMass, making 47 saves—a season high—in the victory.

“They’re a very good team, last night we found a way to win a game that we maybe didn’t deserve, [and] tonight we were opportunistic,” coach Greg Carvel said. “Tonight’s game was to me a little bit of pond hockey, it was a pretty wide-open game, compared to last night that was hard-checking and more of a physical battle.”

“It’s huge,” Rufo said about beating QU twice. “They’re a great team, really, really skilled. That was a battle all weekend, they didn’t give us a second [or] a break at all.”

Freshmen Oliver Chau (two goals) and Mitchell Chaffee (goal, assist) were the other goal scorers for UMass (7-6-0, 2-3-0 Hockey East Association) and looked dialed in from the drop of the puck.

“I’m really impressed with those two kids,” said Carvel. “We’re I guess 13 games in now and those two freshmen along with [Mario] Ferraro and [Cale] Makar have separated themselves as really good, reliable Division I Hockey East players that can score, can be effective, are smart, poised, handle the puck, make good decisions and, basically, have a really positive effect in the game for us. We’ve seen certain players kind of up and down, those four kids have been outstanding. I’m really proud and really happy for them.”

Makar and forward Jake Gaudet were the other multi-point producers, each earning a pair of assists for the Minutemen.

UMass scored the game’s first two goals and never looked back, stretching its lead to as big as 5-1 early in the third period, creating a gap too big for the Bobcats (5-7-1, 2-4-0 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Association)  to overcome.

“Obviously those first goals were important, to score the first two even more so,” Carvel said. “I’m comfortable knowing we go into every game and I know what I’m going to get from my team for the most part. It’s a pretty good level of compete and focus so it was good for us to get ahead early. I think it kind of opened the game up and that ended up being in our favor tonight.”

QU outshot the Minutemen 50-19 through the affair.

UMass struck first when Rufo wristed a laser past Bobcat goaltender Keith Petruzzelli (13 saves) following a nice setup from Makar to give the Minutemen the advantage at 5:50 of the first period.

Just one minute and four seconds later, Chau registered his fifth goal of the season to double UMass’ lead to 2-0. A collision in the neutral zone sprung the puck loose and Chau was all over it and converted on a partial breakaway with a nifty backhand marker at 6:54 of the opening frame, as Gaudet and Makar were awarded the assists.

QU cut the Minutemen’s lead in half on a deflection goal from Logan Mick off a faceoff win by the Bobcats making it 2-1 UMass late in the first.

Chaffee didn’t waste long giving the Minutemen their two-goal lead back in the second period as the 6-foot, 200-pounder scored 51 seconds in through Petruzzelli’s five-hole, pushing it to 3-1 UMass.

Rufo netted his second tally of the game, the eventual game-winner at 12:41, to give the Minutemen a three-goal cushion.

In the third period, Chau potted his second of the evening as well on a Minutemen power play giving UMass a 5-1 lead. Chaffee found Chau all alone in front of the Bobcat net and No. 20 found twine to further the Minutemen’s offensive explosion.

“I think we weren’t doing very well the last couple of games and to get the pretty much monkey off our back, I think that was really good for us,” Chau said about the power play strike.

QU scored twice more and Rufo added an empty-netter bringing the final to 6-3.

Special teams favored UMass as it killed off five of the six Bobcat power plays without a goal and went 33 percent on the man-advantage (1-for-3).

“Especially for these younger guys, knowing they can compete with one of the best teams in the country [is important],” said Rufo. “I think it gives us a boost to our whole entire team, but like I said we got to get back to work on Monday and prepare for the next week.”

“Like Niko said, it gives us a lot of confidence moving forward, knowing that we can play with the best every night so I think we’re just to keep getting better,” Chau added.

 

Ryan Ames can be reached at rames@umass.edu or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.

 

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